Leadership, advocacy training offered for Minnesotans with disabilities, parents of children with developmental disabilities

Published 6:36 pm Friday, May 24, 2019

Minnesotans with disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities are encouraged to apply for a comprehensive advocacy training course, Partners in Policymaking program at no cost.  Starting in September, the nationally recognized leadership training offers eight sessions over nine months.

“Our goal is that graduates gain a clear understanding of disability law and policies. The training increases their self-confidence in advocating for their needs,” said Dr. Colleen Wieck, executive director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. “As they have learned to speak up for people with disabilities, many have become leaders in their own communities.” The Minnesota-inspired program is also offered in most states and several foreign countries.

The leadership training taps into national experts and utilizes group participation.  Described by many as life-changing, in its 32-year history, more than 1,000 Minnesotans have become leaders in their own communities.  Participants become effective advocates for themselves, their children, and others with disabilities.

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Sessions cover the history of disability and self-advocacy movements, inclusive education, supported living, competitive employment, and avenues to influence county, state and federal legislative processes.  For convenience, the monthly two-day sessions are held on Fridays and Saturdays, from September to May. The March session is on a Sunday and Monday, when participants prepare for and meet with legislators at the Capitol.

Costs for the Partners program are covered by a federal grant. Child care and respite allowances are given, and overnight accommodations are provided for those who travel from outside the metro area to attend. Mileage is reimbursed, and meals are provided. Sessions are at the Crowne Plaza Aire, at 3 Appletree Square in Bloomington, near Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The training is limited to 40 Minnesotans, participants are selected by a panel of Partners graduates and representatives of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. The first session for the 2019 to 2020 program year is September 13 to 14.  Local experts and nationally recognized leaders in school inclusion, community organizing, governmental processes, and disability issues are among the presenters. Applications can be downloaded at  mn.gov/mnddc/partnersinpolicymaking and are due by July 8.

“This program is based on the belief that systems change is best brought about through the efforts of those most affected by them, and we seek to arm these individuals with the tools needed to be successful in the public policy arena,” said Wieck.

Those selected to participate in the program must attend all sessions and complete homework assignments.  For further information, or to get an application form, go to or contact Brenton Rice at brenton@togevents.com, or 612-242-6589.

The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities introduced the Partners in Policymaking program in 1987, and, through expansion to other states and countries, has trained more than 27,000 people worldwide.